1. The Business Value of
A Framework for Measuring the Benefits of Business Intelligence
2. Business Objects. The Business Value of Business Intelligence
In every organization, employees make hundreds of decisions each day. They can
range from whether to give customer X a discount, whether to start producing part
Y, whether to launch another direct mail campaign, whether to order additional
materials, etc. These decisions are sometimes based on facts, but mostly based
on experience, accumulated knowledge, and rule of thumb.
That poses a problem because experience, knowledge, and rule of thumb can
take years to develop. Some employees never acquire them. Those who do may
still fall prey to decision traps or biases in judgment. Improving the quality of
business decisions has a direct impact on costs and revenue. For instance,
giving a customer a discount may or may not help the bottom line, depending on
the profitability of the client over the duration of the relationship. To improve the
quality of decisions, managers can:
˚ Option: Do critical tasks themselves.
Result: This leads to burnout, bottlenecks, and opportunity costs of
not doing more strategic work.
˚ Option: Hire additional skilled staff.
Result: This increases costs dramatically.
˚ Option: Attempt to define a policy for all possible decisions.
Result: This leads to decisions that do not meet with the rapidly
changing needs of the business.
¸ Option: Give existing staff the means to make better decisions.
Result: This creates an agile enterprise and is the most
The Value of Better Decisions
How are Decisions Made in Your Organization?
2 The Value of Better Decisions
4 The Means to Making Better Decisions
4 All Employees Can Use
4 Are we Meeting our Objectives?
5 The Case for Business Intelligence
6 What is Business Intelligence
6 The Vision
6 The Problem
7 The Solution-Business Intelligence
8 The Characteristics of a Business
8 Single Point of Access
8 Using BI in All Departments
of an Organization
8 Timely Answers to
9 Making the Most of the Internet
by Creating an Extranet
10 The Benefits of Business Intelligence
10 Lowering Costs
12 Increasing Revenue
14 Improving Customer Satisfaction
16 Justifying the Investment
16 The Process for Quantifying
18 Suggested Solution
Authors: Mark Ritacco and Astrid Carver
Contributor: Mike Bendel
3. Business Objects. The Business Value of Business Intelligence
What is a good decision? A good decision can be defined as one that helps the
organization move closer to its goals. But how do employees know if the decision
they are about to make will help the enterprise meet its objectives? They need
All employees can use strategic information
For example, how do you define the work of a stonemason?
• Is he placing stones side by side and cementing them together?
• Is he building a wall?
• Is he building a cathedral?
Each job description is true. But by focusing on the third definition, the mason
will understand the goal and the context of his task, not to mention find his work
more interesting. Give him up-to-date information on how the rest of the building is
progressing, how many stones he has left, and how other masons did his job in the
past, and he will be able to make better on-the-fly decisions in response to
changing work conditions. This observation holds true for any type of employee.
Strategic information is a powerful motivator and enabler.
Are we meeting our objectives?
Increasingly, managers’ incentive plans are based on quantifiable objectives, such
as profitability, percentage of on-time deliveries, proportion of satisfied customers,
etc. However, managers often have limited ways of knowing whether they are
progressing toward their objectives. At the end of the year, they receive their
bonus, and are told how well they did. They may be pleased or disappointed, but
they have little way of predicting the impact of their actions on corporate welfare.
Management by objectives (MBOs) only works if the employee has a way to
monitor his own progress in reaching his objectives. With business intelligence
(BI), each user has the means to see how his or her actions impact the overall
corporate profitability. Complex incentive plans may not be as necessary if
employees can see which of their actions improve or hurt overall performance.
The Means to Making Better Decisions
Strategic information is the key to
allowing employees to make a
4. Business Objects. The Business Value of Business Intelligence
You understand the value of making a better decision and how giving your
employees greater access to information can empower them and yield even
greater results. Now it’s just a matter of finding out how a BI solution can make
that notion a reality.
This document will supply you with the knowledge you need to gain a complete
understanding of all the issues you will face when implementing a BI solution.
The brochure is divided into three sections. The first section gives you a clear
definition of the term business intelligence and highlights the characteristics of a
BI deployment. The second section outlines the three most common benefits you
will gain from a BI solution. The third section looks at the issue of measuring the
benefits of BI and explains how you can justify your BI investment.
Throughout this document, you’ll find numerous examples of current Business
Objects customers who are using BI in a wide variety of creative ways to make their
organizations more responsive, productive, and profitable.
The Case for Business Intelligence
5. Business Objects. The Business Value of Business Intelligence
An account manager, on her way to a client visit, looks up past proposals, as well
as the client’s ordering, payment, delivery, support, and marketing history. At a
glance, she can tell that the client’s ordering volumes have dropped lately. A few
queries later she understands that the client has a support issue with a given
product. She places a call to her support department, and learns that the defective
part will be replaced within 24 hours. In addition, the marketing records show that
the client recently attended a user conference and expressed interest in the new
product line. The account manager is now fully prepared for a constructive sales
call. She masters all aspects of her client’s relationship with her firm, understands
the client’s issues, and can confidently address new sales opportunities.
Vast quantities of data...
As businesses increase their reliance on enterprise systems, they are rapidly
accumulating vast amounts of data. Every interaction between departments or
with the outside world, historical information on past transactions, as well as
external market information, are entered into information systems for future use
...Yet very few answers
With all this data available, it’s surprising how difficult it is for managers to get a
clear picture of fundamental business information, such as inventory levels, orders
in the pipeline, or client history. In most organizations, it would take the account
manager, in the example above, hours or days to get answers to her questions.
Many organizations contain disparate silos of information. Client orders and
payment records are kept in the accounting system; installation and support
information is stored in the customer service database; contact management
software tracks the proposals and sales call history; and marketing contact
history is kept by marketing. Rarely do these systems speak the same language,
and there is no simple way for a non-technical user to get answers quickly.
What is Business Intelligence?
6. Business Objects. The Business Value of Business Intelligence
The different information systems described in the previous section may be
successful at helping users accomplish specific tasks, but they’re typically not well
suited at providing information to end users. With business intelligence, users will
be able to turn this information into knowledge, and knowledge into profit.
So what is business intelligence? BI enables your organization to track, understand,
and manage your business in order to maximize enterprise performance. With BI,
organizations are able to improve operational efficiency, build profitable customer
relationships, and develop differentiated product offerings.
In enterprise networks, BI provides employees with information to make better
business decisions, and can be used in environments ranging from workgroups of
20 users to enterprise deployments exceeding 20,000. In an extranet environment,
BI is deployed in applications that allow organizations to deliver new services and
build stronger relationships with customers, partners, and suppliers via the internet.
In enterprise performance management (EPM), organizations must understand
and have constant visibility into their key performance indicators and metrics that
span across their organizations. By doing this, organizations ensure their strategy
is aligned from top to bottom and across the organization from marketing to sales
to manufacturing to human resources. Providing this enterprise insight is a key
strength of BI.
The Solution—Business Intelligence
Business intelligence refers
to the use of technology to
collect and effectively use
information to improve
7. Business Objects. The Business Value of Business Intelligence
Single point of access to information
With BI systems, organizations can unlock information held within their databases
by giving authorized users a single point of access to data—a BI portal—in both
intranet or extranet environments. Wherever the data resides, whether it is stored
in operational systems, data warehouses, data marts and/or packaged applica-
tions, users can prepare reports and drill deep down into the information to under-
stand what drives their business, without technical knowledge of the underlying
data structures. The most successful BI applications allow users to do this with an
easy-to-understand, non-technical, graphical user interface.
Using BI in all departments of an organization
There are many different uses for BI systems. Our example at the beginning of this
section focused on one specific application: sales. However, as illustrated below,
BI systems can be used at every step in the value chain.
Volkswagen AG: The company uses BI to track, understand, and manage data
in every department—from finance, production, and development, to research,
sales and marketing, and purchasing. Users at all levels of the organization
access supplier and customer reports relating to online requests and
negotiations, vehicle launches, and vehicle capacity management
Timely answers to business questions
The key to unlocking information is to give users the tools to quickly and easily find
answers to their questions. Some users will be satisfied with standard reports that
are updated on a regular basis, like current inventory reports, sales per channel, or
customer status reports. However, the answers these reports yield, can lead to new
questions. Some users will want dynamic access to information. The information
that a user finds in a report will trigger more questions, and these questions will not
be answered in a prepackaged report.
While users may spend 80% of their time accessing standard or personalized
reports, you will find that for 20% of their tasks, they need to go elsewhere
to obtain additional information not available in the original report. To address
this need and to avoid end user frustration (and related report backlog for the
IT team), a BI system is required that lets users autonomously make ad hoc
requests for information from corporate data sources.
The Characteristics of a Business
8. Business Objects. The Business Value of Business Intelligence
Making the most of the internet by creating an extranet
You can open up BI system access to users outside the organization through
extranet applications with clearly defined security limits. For example, customers
may want to consult their ordering history to analyze their buying patterns and
identify cost-saving opportunities. Or suppliers may be interested in gathering
MasterCard International: For merchants, access to BI offers the opportunity
to monitor their businesses more closely on a day-to-day basis. Advertising
agencies are able to use information from the extranet when developing
campaigns for merchants. On the authorization side, a call center can pull
up cardholder authorization transactions to cut down on fraud. MasterCard
expects that in the long term and as business partners increasingly demand
access to system data, the system will support more than 20,000 external
9. Business Objects. The Business Value of Business Intelligence
Because of the wide applicability of BI in both enterprise and extranet deployments,
the business benefits are numerous. These benefits can be grouped into three main
categories: lowering costs, increasing revenue, and improving customer satisfaction.
And this list is far from exhaustive, since empowered users continue to find new
ways to implement BI.
Improve operational efficiency
By giving internal or external customers access to real-time data over the web,
customers can track their own accounts and answer their own questions. As a
result, customer satisfaction is improved while reducing support costs. A significant,
added benefit to real-time data access is that data becomes much cleaner. By
reviewing the data themselves, customers can spot errors, and help improve the
quality of the information in the data warehouse.
A leading risk insurance company: Today, the organization's customer care
extranet allows customers to access their account information over the
internet; however, it used to be that the company would send paper reports
and diskettes to all of its customers. Any errors in the reports would take one
to two months to correct because customers would first have to receive the
report, catch the mistake, and then notify the company of the error. Now
customers spot the errors themselves in real time and notify the insurance
company directly through the extranet, usually within a couple of days or less.
Eliminate report backlog and delays
Business intelligence allows business users to design their own queries and
reports, allowing organizations to redeploy the programmers who formerly
performed this task. This can generate significant cost savings in human
resources, since sought-after staff can be reallocated to projects that add
more value to the organization.
Handspring, Inc.: “The company receives data from such partners in multiple
formats and a variety of systems, so it needed to consolidate and analyze
data to give employees better information for decision-making. [With BI,
Handspring] can now generate reports on items such as web orders,
bookings, billings, backlog, and shipping activities in less than one day,
versus weeks before.”1
The Benefits of Business Intelligence
10. Business Objects. The Business Value of Business Intelligence 10
Negotiate better contracts with suppliers and customers
A solid grasp of facts and figures is invaluable when it comes to negotiating
contracts with suppliers and customers. For instance, by analyzing supplier
performance—on-time delivery trends, percentage of rejects, and price changes—you
are in an excellent position to discuss all aspects of the contract as well as
possibly negotiate volume discounts. And identifying a customer's spending
patterns could qualify him or her for a particular packaged deal.
Shell Services International: With its BI solution, Shell was able to access
information about revenues between fuel and non-fuel business. Seeing that
20% of their products were delivering 80% of their sales, Shell made sig-
nificant improvements in margin and turnover. They also negotiated better deals
with suppliers and improved product master file management, which helped
them reduce working capital.
Find root causes and take action
If one division is doing better or worse than others, identify the root cause and either
implement a best practice or fix the problem. Was the problem caused by better/
worse management? A regional market trend? A new sales strategy?
With BI, you can find root causes both to problems and to best practices by simply
asking “Why?” The process is initiated by analyzing a global report, say of sales per
quarter. Every answer is followed by a new question, and users can drill deep down
into a report to get to fundamental causes. Once they have a clear
understanding of root causes, they can take highly effective action.
Using BI can turn open questions into specific answers.
Do 20% of your products
account for 80% of your
sales? If you don't know,
business intelligence can
give you the answer.
11. Business Objects. The Business Value of Business Intelligence 11
Identify wasted resources and reduce inventory costs
You can use BI to apply activity-based costing methods to identify hidden costs
or missed opportunities. From these findings, resources can be allocated to highly
profitable products, customers, and projects, thereby increasing the bottom line.
Also, having a clearer understanding of success of promotions can help to
effectively monitor inventory levels.
TruServ: The parent company of True Value Hardware “has used BI software to
improve efficiency of its distribution operations and reap a $50 million reduc-
tion in inventory costs.” “The marketing department uses [BI] to track sales
promotion results such as which promotions were most popular by store or
by region. Now that TruServ is building promotion histories in its databases,
it can ensure all stores are fully stocked with adequate inventory during an
event.” TruServ “was able to achieve a return on investment in about five to
Leverage your investment in your ERP or data warehouse
While the bulk of the investment in your BI system is probably in enterprise resource
planning (ERP) applications or your data warehouse, it is very difficult for non-technical
users to take advantage of available data without a good reporting and analysis tool.
BI helps unlock the data in your company’s data warehouse(s).
BOC Gases: One of the world’s leading suppliers of industrial gases uses BI
to make ad hoc queries against its SAP system. Thanks to BOC’s BI system,
sales people can access reports that are tailored to their needs and that hold
a lot of detailed information. Working offline on their laptops, sales people can
drill down to the required level of detail on product or customer information.
12. Business Objects. The Business Value of Business Intelligence 12
Sell information to customers, partners, and suppliers
Leading organizations are using BI to differentiate their product and service
offerings from competitors through value added, web-based services. In the
past, many departments generated zero revenue, but now with BI extranets,
they create a recurring revenue stream by selling information to customers,
partners, and suppliers.
Owens Minor: The $3 billion medical supplies distributor has signed up 80
hospital accounts and six of its top suppliers, including pharmaceutical giant
Johnson Johnson, for the service. Hospitals pay up to $1,250 per month
and suppliers pay $2,000 per month. It is estimated that Owens Minor will
generate at least $2 million in fees next year.
Improve strategies with better marketing analysis
With easy access to ordering, accounting, production, shipping, customer service,
and even external databases, marketers can find answers to the most detailed of
questions such as, “What was the success rate of my direct mail campaign?” or
“What was the incremental revenue generated from the new TV ads we just ran?”
or “Which ten items were most popular across our 50 stores during the past couple
With this information, the marketer can precisely tailor product launches and
promotion campaigns to the targeted audience. Using BI, companies can micro
segment their markets and gain an edge over the competition.
Ben Jerry’s: BI allows the U.S. ice cream maker to track, understand, and
manage information on the thousands of consumer responses it receives on its
products and promotional activities. Through daily customer feedback analysis,
Ben Jerry’s is able to identify trends and modify its marketing campaigns and
its products to suit consumer demand.
13. Business Objects. The Business Value of Business Intelligence 13
Departments within an organization
that have led the deployment of BI
extranets have found themselves
switching from being a cost center
to becoming a profit center.
Empower your sales force
Better results from your sales force can be achieved by analyzing its selling
patterns: compare results to targets, to figures from previous years, to other
sales staff results, and suggest improvements. Encourage the sales force to
focus on high profitability customers and products. The sales force can also
use BI to analyze data on brands, clients, and distributors.
TaylorMade: “When salespeople went out to visit TaylorMade’s customers at
golf pro shops and sporting goods retail chains, they didn’t have up-to-date
inventory reports. The sales reps would take orders for clubs, accessories,
and clothing without confidence that the goods were available for delivery as
promised,” [Tom Collard, information systems director with TaylorMade] says.
“The technology has helped TaylorMade not only reduce costs by eliminating
the reporting backlog…it has eliminated a lot of wasted effort that resulted
from booking orders that it couldn’t fill.”5
Improving Customer Satisfaction
Give users the means to make better decisions
With access to information, users can make better decisions faster, without
having to escalate standard problems up the management hierarchy. This
guarantees pragmatic and effective solutions since the people directly involved
in the operations make decisions. In addition, users have the increased satisfaction
of controlling their own process.
Ingram Micro: This wholesale provider of high-tech goods to technology
solutions providers is working to create a new BI extranet in order to deliver
advanced information to the company’s suppliers and business partners.
Says Ingram Micro CIO Guy Abramo, “Today it’s incumbent on us to provide
our partners with sell-through information so they can see what happened
once their PCs hit distribution. That’s critical for them to do inventory planning
and manufacturing planning—helping them to understand what products are
selling to what segments of the marketplace.”6
14. Business Objects. The Business Value of Business Intelligence 14
Provide quick answers to user questions
One of the primary benefits of BI is that you can dramatically reduce the time it
takes for internal and external users to get answers to their questions. With fewer
delays and faster response time, users are empowered to act quickly, based on
the information they receive.
Principal Financial Group (PFG): PFG’s financial department has received
substantial benefits from the products’ real-time data extraction and analysis
capabilities. The department can now rapidly review monthly and yearly rev-
enue data, increasing the speed of decision-making and improving productivity
and business performance.
Challenge assumptions with factual information
Almost all businesses rely on assumptions and rule of thumb. However, it is
worthwhile to challenge these hunches through detailed analysis of operational
data, because assumptions and rule of thumb are frequently incorrect.
British Airways: Peter Blundell, former knowledge strategy manager for British
Airways, and various company executives had a suspicion that the carrier was
suffering from a high degree of ticket fraud. To address this problem, Blundell
and his team rolled out business intelligence. “Once we analyzed the data,
we found that this ticket fraud was not an issue at all. What we had supposed
was fraud was in fact either data quality issues or process problems,” says
Blundell. “What it did was give us so many unexpected opportunities in terms
of understanding our business.”7 Blundell estimates that their BI deployment
has resulted in around $100 million in cost savings and new revenues for
15. Business Objects. The Business Value of Business Intelligence 15
By now, the benefits of BI—lowering costs, increasing revenue, and improving customer
satisfaction—have been explained, and you can see why BI is a prerequisite to making
better decisions. But you might be wondering, “How do I justify this investment?”
The Process for Quantifying BI Benefits
Increasingly, top-level management expects IT departments to justify their costs
by presenting quantified value gains, typically using ROI methods. Management is
no longer prepared to sink large sums into IT projects simply because they are the
latest and greatest technology. Information technology has come of age, and it is
expected to make a significant contribution to the bottom line.
When looking at how BI affects the bottom line, you should analyze the various ben-
efits you can expect to see from a BI deployment. A practical way of breaking down
these numerous benefits is to separate them into four main categories:
• Quantifiable benefits
• Indirectly quantifiable benefits
• Unpredictable benefits
• Intangible benefits
Quantifiable benefits include working time saved in producing reports, selling
information to suppliers, etc.
Moët et Chandon: The famous champagne producer, reduced its IT costs from
approximately $.30 per bottle to $.15.
A leading risk insurance company: Because customers have self-service
access to their information in the insurance company's database, they no
longer receive paper reports. This one benefit alone saves the organization
$400,000 a year in printing and shipping costs. The total three-year ROI for
this BI deployment was 249%.
Justifying the Investment
16. Business Objects. The Business Value of Business Intelligence 16
Indirectly quantifiable benefits can be evaluated through indirect evidence—
improved customer service means new business from the same customer, and
differentiated service brings new customers.
Owens Minor: A customer of Owens Minor cited extranet access to the
data warehouse as the primary reason for giving the medical supplies distributor
an additional $44 million in business.
Unpredictable benefits are the result of discoveries made by creative users.
Volkswagen Finance: The BI system allowed an interesting discovery that later
resulted in significant new revenue. The customers of a particular model of the
Audi product line had completely different behaviors than customers of other
cars. Based on their socio-economic profiles, they were thought to want long
lease terms and fairly large upfront payments. Instead, the information revealed
that Audi customers actually wanted shorter leases and to finance a large
part of the purchase through the lease. Based on that insight, the company
immediately introduced a new program combining shorter length of lease,
larger upfront payments, and aggressive leasing rates, especially for that car
model. The take up on the new program was immediate, resulting in over $2
million new revenue.
Intangible benefits include improved communication throughout the enterprise,
improved job satisfaction of empowered users, and improved knowledge sharing.
ABN AMRO Bank: The corporate human resources department at ABN
AMRO uses BI to gain insight into its workforce by analyzing information on
such items as gender, age, tenure, and compensation. Thanks to this sharing
of intellectual capital, the HR department is in a better position to demonstrate
its performance and contribution to the business successes of the corporation
as a whole.
17. Business Objects. The Business Value of Business Intelligence 17
While a deployment’s ROI is most accurately determined on a case-by-case basis,
we suggest the following approach for evaluating these systems. This approach has
the advantage of taking both measurable and intangible benefits into consideration:
• Quantify the expected measurable benefits.
• Qualitatively describe, as precisely as possible, the anticipated
• Estimate the total cost of ownership (TCO), including hardware, software,
personnel, consulting services, and future ongoing costs. Bear in mind that
the choice of system architecture—integrated or non-integrated—can greatly
affect total cost of ownership.
• Then apply the following decision rule.
If TCO Quantifiable and Indirectly
Quantifiable Benefits (A+B), then the
system is clearly worth the expenditure.
If TCO A + B, then you must evaluate the
unpredictable and intangible benefits to make
18. Business Objects. The Business Value of Business Intelligence 18
Measuring these intangible benefits, while challenging, can be done by creating
a series of assumptions to determine the impact these types of benefits have had
on the bottom line. For example, if customers access reports directly and that
empowers the sales force to make more sales calls (because their time has been
freed up from creating the reports), how much more revenue are the sales
representatives bringing to the company because of these additional calls?
Would a realistic, conservative estimate on the amount of incremental business
done with this additional time be a 2% increase? If so, then in a $100 million
company, that would be a $2 million benefit for the company.
This process can be undertaken for any benefit acquired through business
intelligence. And while a little more time consuming than simply calculating the
quantifiable benefits, it will in all likelihood yield numbers that are sure to create a
positive ROI that would make any executive or business manager feel that
implementing business intelligence was a wise decision.
19. Business Objects. The Business Value of Business Intelligence 19
The widespread use of information technology can generate tremendous amounts
of data within an organization. This data contains information that is invaluable to
the organization’s decision makers.
The issue for most organizations is that the data is inaccessible to all but the
IT department. While IT can run queries and produce reports at the request of
business users, a self-service approach to information provides the greatest
benefits. With direct, easy access to information, users can find answers to all the
questions that are raised by their activities. Armed with precise, up-to-the-minute
information, users can develop effective responses that help their organization attain
BI is the key to leveraging this wealth of data that accumulates in an enterprise.
With BI, non-technical users can pinpoint what drives their business activity.
They can help reduce costs, increase revenues, and improve customer satisfaction.
While many of these benefits are clearly quantifiable, some of the more intangible
ones, such as improved communication throughout the enterprise, improved job
satisfaction of empowered users, or sharing of intellectual capital, can give your
business the greatest edge over its competitors.
We hope this paper has helped clarify the value that BI can deliver for your
organization. If you would like further information on Business Objects and our
products and solutions, please visit businessobjects.com.
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© 2007 Business Objects. All rights reserved. Business Objects owns the following U.S. patents, which may cover products that are offered and licensed by Business Objects: 5,555,403; 6,247,008;
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